How to Best Use Plant Identification Apps on Smartphones

Care and How-To

Your smartphones can be wonderful tools, and several apps on our phones can help with plant identification. 

How Plant ID Apps Work

Most of these apps work by allowing you to snap or upload photos of the unknown plant that can then be analyzed and provide a listing of plants they could potentially be, often with a percentage of confidence in the identification.  Some will allow you to input additional information about what is in the picture (flowers, leaves, fruit, etc.) and information about location or time of year to help return accurate results.  Others will utilize metadata associated with the photo to understand the location, time of year, and other attributes that can help identify the plant.


Apps on your cell phone are one tool to help identify plants.

How to Best Use Apps for Plant ID

These apps are best utilized to aid in identification rather than as a tool to definitively identify the plant.  Rather than identifying the plant outright, they provide a much shorter list of potential plants that can be further researched to then identify.  This can make the identification process much easier as it can help narrow the possibilities and allow you to get to an answer more quickly.  For this reason, these apps are great tools for gardeners to use!

Potential Plant ID Apps to Use

There are a lot of options available on both Apple and Android phones.  Some have costs associated with them and some are free. A few apps to consider include:

  • PlantNet
  • LeafSnap
  • Plantsnap
  • Seek
  • iPlant
  • PictureThis
  • Google Lens
  • and many others

This is not a complete list of potential apps and no endorsement is implied.  Each has its strengths and drawbacks and which app you use depends on cost, smartphone platform, and personal preferences.

Unsure of which one might work best for you?  Check out this article from Michigan State University: Plant identification? There’s an app for that—actually several!

Remember the old computer adage, “garbage in, garbage out,” applies here as well.  High-quality photos and as much accurate information as you can provide will allow these convenient tools to do the best job of aiding you in plant identification.

Authors: 

Aaron Steil Consumer Horticulture Extension Specialist

Aaron Steil is the consumer horticulture extension specialist at Iowa State University where he works with county Extension offices across the state to answer home gardening questions for all Iowans.  This includes information related to trees, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, herbs, perennials, ...

Last Reviewed: 
April, 2023